What IS a Montessori School?

By Beth Shine
I was first introduced to the Montessori concept when I visited the Montessori Children’s House of Longview as a high school senior working on an extra credit paper for a home and family health class. I was so amazed at how capable the children were and the high level of academics being done at such a young age. A few months after graduating from high school I applied for a job at the school. I worked for four years as a classroom assistant and two years as a managing board member before taking the Montessori teacher training.
After eight years as lead teacher, I bought the school. I am now in my eighth year owning MCHL and sixteenth year as lead teacher. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and Montessori classrooms felt so respectful of each individual student and their needs academically and socially I just knew I had to be a part of it!
As a parent you want your child to develop a love of learning. In a Montessori classroom children are able to access their internal drive to know the why and how of things around them.
When you visit a Montessori classroom you see children in a three year age span (ages 2 1/2 – Kindergarten) working harmoniously in the same room doing individual lessons that feed their need at mastering whatever skill is needed to move them forward developmentally. Not every child develops at the same rate with the same interests.
The Montessori classroom nourishes and respects that in each individual. As a child matures socially in the classroom there are plenty of opportunities to work with classmates who are mastering a similar skill. The multi-aged classroom allows the younger children peers who are role models and a sense of what is to come while the older children in the classroom experience mastery of a variety of skills as they assist the younger children. Children really do enjoy learning from each other.
The classroom has four main areas from which each of the lessons come. These areas are practical life, sensorial, language, and math. Maria Montessori developed a method of teaching that would teach young children abstract ideas in the concrete.
Math in the Montessori classroom is a unique and wonderful example of how successful her methods are. The first thing a young child (aged three) would work on in math is recognition of numbers 0-9. She would do this by working with sandpaper numbers. These are numbers made out of sandpaper and put on a card. The teacher will trace a number with her fingers while saying the number then inviting the child to do the same.
This allows the number to be practiced with three senses sight, sound, and touch. When a child’s hand slips off the sandpaper she can feel it right away correcting herself without teacher interference. The tracing also creates muscular memory in the hand for later writing.
Once a child knows her numbers 0-9, she knows all the numbers in the world, the rest is placement of those numbers. Next a child would experience several lessons with the “golden beads”. One small golden bead represents “a unit”, ten of those same beads connected represents “a ten”, ten tens connected together represents “a hundred”, and ten hundreds connected together represents “a thousand”. The child is able to count these beads as well as feel their weight and size as the categories get larger.
She will have lessons on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a very concrete form. For example, a child will bring several beads to a rug while two of her classmates will do the same, they put them all together on the rug and count each bead paying special attention to when they get to ten of any category so they can trade ten of one category in for one of the next larger category.
When completed they have done addition in its most concrete form. Accompanying these beads are their prospective number cards representing the beads in a written composite form.
Each operation is done in the same fashion, children take away from a large number of beads at the rug experiencing subtraction, children each bring a secret number to the rug only to reveal they all brought the same number thus experiencing multiplication, children come to the rug to each take some of the quantity away following the rule that everyone has to get the same amount experiencing division.
Once the child has done a mathematical operation in the concrete (with the golden beads) she has a real personal experience with what it means to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. This is something a child can draw on for years as she advances through many math programs. After much work is done with the golden beads the materials in the math area of the classroom get smaller and even more cumbersome to encourage memorization of essential math equations. When I took the training to be a Montessori teacher all I could think was wow I wish I would have had this when I was four!! Math is a universal language, as is Montessori education.
Montessori Children’s House of Longview is an affordable pre-school and Kindergarten education opportunity that will benefit little learners for life. To schedule a classroom viewing, contact Beth at the school:
(360)578-9885 (See ad this page)

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